Monday, November 29, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons

Most people will say "make lemonade"  though I have heard a thousand variations of this saying.

If you are more like me, you will probably find that when life gives you lemons, you forget about them down in the bottom drawer of the fridge for a few weeks.

If you make lemonade when life gives you lemons, what do you make when life gives you rotten moldy lemons in the bottom of your fridge?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Potato Salad - Part Deux

Brave Enough To Try Again?
Same Guests as last time I screwed up the potato salad... Think I can get it right this time?

Honestly, I was a bit surprised when the trucker asked if I was making my salad.  He doesn't even eat it!  I guess they really missed it when I messed it up last time.
I will try again today, even though I don't have as wide a variety of veggies to throw in.  Really, it only 'needs' eggs and potatoes, right?

I'm making a bbq pulled pork for dinner. Last night I said "remind me to take the roast out of the freezer when we get downstairs"  about a million times.  After a brief argument this morning, I think the trucker and I agree that I should know better than to ask him to remember something for ME, and he will work on NOT answering me if he didn't hear what I asked!

Remember my meal planning story?  Yeah, I've known for a week that I was making this today.  I completely forgot to take it out of the freezer last night so it was frozen solid this morning.
First Mistake.
Not having it out of the freezer means I definitely need to get it in the slow cooker early in the morning in order to be cooked well enough to pull apart easily.
Second Mistake.
Darling Trucker calls me at 10:30 and says "Have you got the roast cooking?"
"What?  Oh, Yes, Of COURSE I do!"
Haul out the slow cooker, get the roast from the stinkin freezer... it DOESN'T FIT in my crockpot!!  It's frozen solid so I can't manipulate it, I know it will shrink as it cooks and fit fine!  Can I put, like, tin foil over the top of the crockpot since I can't use the lid?  No, really, I don't know!  I decided today was probably not the day to test it out, since I've ripped off these friends before with dinner.... I think they actually want to eat what I said I was making!!
Grabbed the roaster and turned on the oven, deciding that I would just get it started in there (or maybe finish it that way too). After it thaws out a bit and starts to cook, it will be easier and I can fit it in the slow cooker.
I had lunch with my son, dropped him off at school and started to think about where I'd like to go for the afternoon.... "NO!!!"  I did realize before I got too far that I had a freakin' roast in the oven at home... close call, could have been yet another mistake!

Now the toddler is napping, I've got things in order again (finally) and the roast is in the crock as it should have been a while ago...
OH.... no, I am NOT in order... I was heading out to pick up the buns, wasn't I?  I was going to get buns after I dropped off the boy. But thinking I'd forget the meat, I turned around and came home...oh, man!

Now, having such a bad experience with my potato salad before, and such a rough morning with the roast.... I'm afraid to even start it!!  Hahaaaaa......ugh...

I'm sure it will be fine....right?  I'll send out an update once it's eaten (providing it all turns out edible!).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meal Planning 101

Step One...
Sucker someone else into doing it!

If that doesn't work, you're on your own.  AAAAaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!

Seriously, though...I do believe there is money and stress to be saved just by making a meal plan.  I know people who have a three month list of meals and can just mix and match and lay out dinner ideas for the whole month in a matter of minutes.  I also know a lot of people who will pick up something fresh on the way home from work every day instead of doing a big shopping trip. 

Now, in my situation, Mom is the shopper.  I am the cook (at least most of the time).  She knows what I can and can't make, she knows her schedule and what or when she can cook also.  There are certain 'staples' that we always have and other things that we buy when they are on sale.  In the end, our freezer is almost always full, along with the pantry.  We are pretty good at noting things we are running low on so we don't run out.
My meal planning is half done, right?  I have a selection of meats, veggies, etc. stocked and waiting.  I just have to put them together!  

I've tried. I did notice that when I wrote a basic plan on the fridge, everyone noticed.
Everyone also LOUDLY voiced their opinions of my selections.   
Think weekdays only, so 
5 meals 
1 hubby to dislike Thursdays meal. 
2 kids who can read - one doesn't want Tuesday's meal and the other hates Wednesday's choice.  
Who's invited us out Friday? 
Oh.... okay... well, at least I have today planned!  

I've tried making a list with the family.  Started by each type of meat and asked what types of meals they like with that meat.  It helped a bit, but unless I'm willing to live on Beef and chicken (and only in the form of nuggets, of course) this method didn't get us far.  

I tried to accommodate ONE person's favorite per day... but that meant at least 2 complainers EVERY day. ugghh..

This weekend I got a bit smarter.  I made a list of what meat was in the freezer right now.  Sat down while the family was eating our Sunday dinner and stated "This is what we have, what do you want this week?"  The kids invariably added 'takeout' and mac & cheese to the list and when I clarified that I was making something from this list only.... they did offer a few ideas.  In a couple minutes we had a basic outline for the week. I so far only plan week days, as our weekends breeze by and are often filled with leftovers and snacks.  But at least having a plan for the busy days takes some stress away from my evenings. It's much easier to get the kids to bed on time when supper happens at a decent time.

After this week, I will write down the list the family gave me.  I will try to follow the same plan next week for planning meals, and the week after and so on.  And I will add anything to this first list that wasn't there before.  Eventually I should have my very own stockpile of dinner ideas, so that I too can have a rotating menu plan. I may not have the variety I crave so much, but at least everyone will eat what I make.

I can always make the things I really like for my lunch...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I've Missed The Boat - The Gravy Boat

With the weather turning cold and snowy, it's time for more slow cooker meals.  Great dinners that warm up the house and leave such a delicious smell in the air when you first walk in the door.  This is a great time of year.

Except for the ice... 

                            and shoveling.... 

well, the food is good anyway.

We had roast beef and all the fixin's the other day.  I had a lunch appointment and my thoughtful mother had started a roast for me so I wouldn't have to stress after I got home.  It was very sweet, and much appreciated!

What I don't understand, is why her gravy is so much better than mine.  
I use exactly the same ingredients when I make a roast, all the same spices.  And quite often when we have a roast, she is the one who gets it ready.  If she is out at dinner time, all I have to do is thicken the gravy and mash the potatoes.
(Really, yes, I am that spoiled sometimes... she even peels and cuts up veggies for me. They are left soaking in water so I only have to turn things on.  Wonder if my family begs her for this when I'm not around??)
Her gravy is to die for.  It's rich and full of flavor.  If she is in the kitchen and I thicken it up for her, it still tastes okay.  But if she is not here... it just doesn't turn out quite the same.

I have no idea how this happens.

I'm not saying my gravy is bad.  It's still good, just not as good as hers.... even when it starts out as 'hers'.
I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner... and we ravenously ate up the leftovers in hot beef sandwiches with home-made fries the next day.  It was fantastic!
Thanks Mom!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trick or Treat? Sure Fooled Me!

Halloween has come and gone.  I love this spooky holiday!  A time to dress up crazy and just let loose.  Even better when you have kids, they give you an excuse to be extra silly.
Halloween of course, would not be the same with out the family jack-o-lanterns.  Sure, there are store bought ones, fake plastic ones, and even painted pumpkins these days.  But NOTHING beats the look on a little boys face while he's squishing out the 'guts' and getting messy.  

My little artists spent about 2 weeks with washable markers working on the final masterpeices.  They'd draw and wash and draw and wash... leaving the cutting job to mom and dad just before halloween.
Why do I wait so long to cut them?  The answer is simple.  
WE LIKE PIE!  (I think I've said this before...haha)

Every Halloween, we delay carving our pumpkins until the last day or two before halloween.  We all look forward to the pie and also to roasting our own seeds. 
MMmmm.... Pumpkin Seeds....
How do I accomplish this feat?  Me, of all people who can't cook?
It's the perfect dish for someone as forgetful as me...  I can let them roast slowly in the oven for a long time. And by time I can smell them through the house, they're usually pretty close to done!  
It's really not hard.

Unless, of course, you notoriously forget things... In which case you run out the door to do one little errand, which leads to another, which reminds me I have to drop something off at the school, which makes me think about my oldest son, he happens to need socks... so I stop by the mall on my way to the school. I can't just look at socks and leave.....

....finally I make it back to the school around the dismissal bell.  Walk in the front door at home and think "Yumm... Someone has started dinner for me!"  Hello!!! Wendy!!! You in there?  NO ONE IS HOME!

So, what do I smell?  My very WELL roasted pumpkin seeds. Thank goodness for low temperatures, nothing burnt this time.

And now I'm sure you are asking how I can possibly manage a pumpkin pie from scratch if I can't even roast the seeds right?
Easy... I keep my pumpkins as fresh as possible, deliver them to a family friend who makes tons of pies at halloween every year....
She kindly delivers us a fresh baked pie in a day or two....

And it's always delicious!